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Closing In

It's hard to like or even trust a closer. A couple hiccups and the seven or eight innings a starter put in are washed away as if they never happened. The pressure rises as the innings dwindle until it's the ninth and you're up by a run or two and the guy on the mound can keep things as they are (as you think they should be), or, let it all go up in flames.

Very few pitchers in baseball history have had the temperament to last any significant time in the role and even the immortals have faltered from time to time. Dennis Eckersley had Kurt Gibson and Mariano Rivera has the Red Sox (he's blown ten saves against them).

There's no one on the White Sox pitching staff who should be mentioned in the same breath with those greats of course, but until recently, Sergio Santos had been doing a more-than-serviceable job. After the Thronton debacle that started the year, anyone would shine by comparison. Still, the man's saved 12 games while only blowing two; not bad at all.

I've never been one to give too much credit or blame to baseball managers. Unless your name is LaRussa and you've apparently made a pact with the devil allowing you to plug no-name players into your lineup whenever a star goes down to a season-ending injury and keep on winning, the manager can only do so much. I'll always defend Ozzie Guillen for running his mouth like a fool in any medium available to him. It creates a buffer between his players and any criticism (deserved or not) when he rants and raves like a rabid dog, and that's not a bad thing.

If there's been one weakness with him, though, it's his handling of relievers. He just doesn't seem to have much of a feel for when to leave 'em in or when to pull the plug. Fat Bobby ripped into Guillen on his way out of town for how he handled his pitchers.

Of course, this came from a man who lost whatever it is that closers require to keep closing and has spent much of this season on the Red Sox disabled list.

Still and all, both times that Santos has blown leads it seems like Guillen has left him out there to get pummeled when he obviously didn't have anything left.

Meanwhile, the team's creeping closer to respectability. Konerko and Quentin keep bashing the ball and Dunn even hit a couple out after being benched for a couple days. The Indians are in freefall; how long could they have kept it up with nothing but smoke and mirrors anyway? The Tigers are still an unknown quantity and perhaps the Sox' true obstacle for the division lead.

We'll see. As long as we win the games we should win, it should work out alright.

carlos_quintin.jpgCarlos Quentin by Dmitry Samarov. (Enlarge)

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Dmitry Samarov brings you Outside Sox Park every Tuesday. You can also find his work at Hack and at dmitrysamarov.com. He welcomes your comments.

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